With almost forty days to the wedding it was time to begin planning the finer details of the actual wedding ceremony. Not that we had left the wedding to the end. You might recall one of my earlier columns on the big discussions Jane and I had about whether to marry in the Melkite Catholic Church or the Latin Catholic Church. Having discerned to marry in the Latin Church we asked Bishop Julian Porteous, the auxiliary bishop of Sydney, to be the main celebrant. While we both know different priests, we know Bishop Porteous in common and we both work closely with him in our respective jobs. We were honoured when he agreed to marry us.
As I had also written about earlier there had been the hope to include some elements from the wedding ceremony (more correctly called the crowning ceremony) of the Byzantine rite. Jane and I met with Bishop Robert Rabbat of the Melkite Eparchy to discuss this and he recently came back to us with permission to incorporate some parts of that rite. Bishop Rabbat also accepted our invitation to be present at the ceremony which is a double blessing.
Having a celebrant and a liturgical rite it became time to sit down and plan some music. One thing Jane and I have learnt in this wedding planning process was never to assume that what we thought was ‘the norm’ would be seen that way by the other person (amusingly in our case this has turned out to be true most of the time). So where as I had imagined a wedding more akin to a solemn Pontifical Mass, Jane had imagined a wedding more akin to the feel of a local parish liturgy. So somewhere between the Sistine Chapel Choir and the parish singers we settled on some very talented friends who offered to play the organ and form the choir.
As well as choosing the music and the hymns, we selected the Mass setting which is the music for the congregational parts. Often at weddings the Mass parts are said and preference given to a few hymns but in reality it is the Mass parts that should always take precedence. Hymns are optional extras and while they of course play a wonderful role in uniting the congregation it is the sung parts of the Mass that show the fullest expression of the liturgy. We found it easy to choose a Mass setting and some hymns that were very beautiful and expressed deeply the mysteries we will be celebrating during the Nuptial Mass.
Also needing some decision has been the readings of the Mass. The Church gives a wide variety of options and even more so than the music, we chose readings that are reflective of our understanding of our own marriage and indeed marriage in its essence. It is an honour for us to be able to have some say in the way the liturgy will appear on the day. While of course the Mass has its own set structure, in selecting the hymns and the readings Jane and I are in some small way able to contribute our personal faith back into that same Liturgy which brought us to faith in the beginning.
With all these elements sorted I am about to sit down and put together to booklet which is no small task but one I will enjoy. Having spent some years in seminary formation I have a keen interest in Liturgy and the way in which it contributes to the faith of the people. There is a well known Latin maxim, lex orandi lex credendi, which translates, ‘The law of prayer is the law of belief’. In other words the way we pray as believers is reflective of what we believe. A liturgy prepared with little care shows a lacking in more than just planning ability. Liturgy is so important because it is the official prayer of God’s people and the way that prayer is conducted reminds us of who it is we worship and that is always an invitation to others. Jane and I hope that our wedding Liturgy with its mix of ancient Scripture readings through to prayers and hymns from across the ages and from East and West will draw us and those present more profoundly into the God whom we will rest our marriage upon.